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Friday, February 3, 2023


Aug. 19, 2001 – Rice usually sides up to beans in the Virgin Islands, but this good-for-you grain also pairs perfectly — and beautifully — with West Indian pumpkin.
Also called calabaza, the West Indian pumpkin is a squash with a brilliant orange interior and an outer skin that ranges in color from green to light tan. It's found at the supermarket most often cut into pieces and wrapped in plastic. When looking for the best pieces, choose those that have a fresh looking, moist, tightly grained flesh with no signs of soft, wet or moldy spots. Whole calabazas make good hurricane stock, as they can be stored safety in a cool dark place for up to six weeks.
The calabaza's flesh has a sweet flavor akin to that of butternut squash. Likewise, it can be cooked in any style used to prepare winter squash. It's good added to soup, especially to pea or bean varieties. You also can serve it as a side dish, scooping out sections of the inner flesh and boiling the pieces for about half an hour or until tender. Calabaza can be baked, too, or cut-up pieces can be microwaved for quicker cooking.
The beauty of adding seasoned cooked chunks of calabaza to rice is that the soft vegetable dissolves almost completely amid the grains, giving the rice a beautiful golden-orange color. Try it!
Spicy West Indian Pumpkin Rice
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 small hot pepper, seeded and chopped, if desired
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
2 cups peeled and cubed West Indian pumpkin
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
In a large saucepan, melt the butter, then add the garlic, onion, green onions and hot pepper, stirring until they are tender. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the black pepper, allspice, thyme leaves and pumpkin. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft. Add the remaining chicken broth. Bring the mixture back to a boil and add the rice. Stir well. Lower heat and cover the pan. Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir well to combine all ingredients thoroughly before serving. Serves 6.
Food fact: About one-half cup of calabaza contains only 35 calories and is a good source of vitamins A and C.

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